Since current trends in the transportation, energy or mechanical industries impose increasingly demanding service conditions for metallic parts, metal matrix composites (MMCs) are the object of a growing interest. Powder-based laser additive manufacturing, which allows making parts with complex shapes, appears particularly adapted for the production of MMCs. This paper reviews the current state-of-the-art in the production of MMCs by additive processes, with the aim of assessing the potentials and difficulties offered by these techniques. Two main processing routes are envisaged, i.e. (1) the processing of ex situ composites in which the reinforcing phase as a powder—often of ceramic particles—is directly mixed with the powder of the matrix alloy, and both powders are simultaneously processed by the laser. (2) Alternatively, the reinforcing phase can be produced in situ by a chemical reaction during the fabrication of the composite. For both processing routes, a careful control is needed to overcome challenges brought, e.g. by the behaviour of the reinforcement particles in the laser beam, by changes in laser absorptivity or by the dissolution of the reinforcing particles in the molten metal, in order to produce MMCs with enhanced usage properties.
Part of the book: New Trends in 3D Printing